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NZ horticultural science helps Kenyan avocado farmers

10 Oct 2014

Plant & Food Research has recently completed the first year of a five-year project, funded by the New Zealand Aid Programme, working with small scale avocado growers in Kenya alongside New Zealand company, Olivado.

New Zealand is a world leader in horticulture and global food production. A key aspect of New Zealand's increasing engagement with Africa is sharing this expertise to promote sustainable economic development and support food security. The New Zealand Aid Programme is providing up to $4 million to Plant & Food Research over five years to work with Olivado operations in Kenya to strengthen the avocado industry. The combination of New Zealand horticulture expertise and a secure pathway to market provided by Olivado will advance the economic development of small holder farmers.

The goal of the project is to more than double the average return to small holder avocado farmers over the next 10 years, by improving their yield, shifting to a new variety of avocado tree and improving post-harvest practices.

“By increasing both the productivity and the quality of production we’re hoping to be able to make a big difference to the lives of the smallholders. The key to the long-term sustainable success of this project is going to be linking their growth to the success of Olivado’s business which sells the oil in over 30 countries” says Plant & Food Research Business Development Manager Barbara Stowe.

Olivado provides a secure pathway to market for about 1,200 smallholder avocado farmers in the Central Highlands north of Nairobi. These smallholder farmers generally have farms of just 1 hectare, with on average just 24 trees. Additionally, about 45% of the smallholder farmers are women.

Already, after 4 years of Olivado’s operation, there is a visible improvement for farmers: new houses, wells, children going to school. The project will see these farmers moving from subsistence agriculture to being part of the cash economy, a real step forward in development.

“At one farm the additional income from the Olivado programme has allowed farmers to buy a cow, which they named ‘Olivado’. In another example a farmer is buying a small number of bricks each year, with hopes of building a new home to replace his present mud house. It’s a great project to be a part of” says Stowe.

Olivado has two production bases, a factory at Kerikeri in the Bay of Islands for New Zealand production and bottling and a production plant in Nairobi, Kenya. Their Kenyan facility purchases Fair Trade and Certified Organic avocados directly from independent, family-owned smallholder farms in the Central Highlands of Kenya.

“I really value our relationship with the farmers that supply our facility in Kenya. It’s great to see so many families becoming part of the cash economy and being so enthusiastic about how they can improve their farms and families livelihood. We pay a premium for the fair trade organic fruit at the farm gate and they decide how to use it. ” says Olivado CEO Gary Hannam.

“The challenge now is to help the farmers increase productivity, that’s where Plant & Food Research and the NZAid Programme come in. We’re seeing that a little bit of science makes a big difference to the farmers.”

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